Posts Tagged ‘Detroit’
Tuesday, June 25th, 2013
From Inc Dot Com
Christine Lagorio | Inc.com staff
What The Pawnbroker Knows
Les Gold, the entrepreneurial star of the cable series Hardcore Pawn, on what his pawn emporium has taught him about business, succession, and economic forecasting.
Les Gold, patriarch of the Detroit-based American Jewelry and Loan and subject of the series Hardcore Pawn, has been in the pawn business since he was a kid working in his grandfather’s little loan office and store. Today, he runs a 50,000-square-foot pawn emporium in a former bowling alley off of 8 Mile Road. Gold says his 50-employee business attracts 1,000 customers each day, who put down items they own in exchange for cash, agreeing to pay it back with 3 percent interest within three months. Recently, as the economy has slowly been picking up, American Jewelry and Loan is also doing a brisk business in selling the items–watches, electronics, prosthetics (yes, prosthetics)–that go unclaimed. In talking with Gold briefly while he was in New York City promoting his new book, For What It’s Worth: Business Wisdom from a Pawnbroker I asked him about what Wall Street–and entrepreneurs just starting out–can learn from his peculiar multi-generation family business.
How did you pitch the show to producers?
I didn’t! They came to me. Twice. At first, Seth, my son, turned down the producers. He said, “no way.” My daughter, Ashley said, “no way.” But I said, “yes!” So to try to keep control of me, they agreed and did the show. Three years and 120 shows later, I don’t think they have any regrets.
Why’s that? Don’t they argue a lot on the show?
Honestly, the show has brought us a lot of business. Our shop in Detroit has become a tourist destination. They come from Australia. They come from the Netherlands. In the old days people might not have wanted to know what a pawnbroker had to say.
Your new book is banking on the idea that nowadays, people do want a little business advice from a guy who resells jewelry.
One of the reasons I did the show is I wanted to change the perception of what pawn shops are–change the stigma from the ’70s movie with Rod Steiger [editor's note: he's probably referencing the 1964 Sidney Lumet film, The Pawnbroker, which is about a Holocaust survivor who operates a pawn shop in East Harlem]. I wanted to show them what a well-lit, well-run business we have.
It’s interesting to me that your business can be seen as an economic indicator of sorts.
Wall Street can learn from us. It’s simple: When the pawn line is long, the economy is bad. When the redemption line is short, people are hurting. And the inverse is true: When the pawn line is short, the economy is good. When the redemption line is long, people are doing better. Wall Street should contact us every three months. I can forecast what the economy is going to do in the next three months. We can tell you how many people are working.
So what does your business right now indicate for the economy this summer? Is it still turning around?
As I see three months from now, people are working. People are not as desperate as they have been. The amount per loan has dropped about 10 percent. People don’t need as much as they did three months ago.
When the economy is good, though, isn’t your business destined to sink?
Even though the loan business has gone down slightly recently, our retail sales have grown about 22 percent. When the economy is OK, pawn shops do OK. When the economy is bad, pawn shops do OK. That’s why they’ve lasted 3,000 years. If we lose in one area, we gain it back in another.
Your show is one of two featuring pawn shops on TV right now. Do you have a rivalry with Pawn Stars?
I’ve never looked at the Joneses. My way of thinking is: If I have my eye on what you’re doing, I’m taking my eye off what I’m doing. Their show is sort of “Antiques Roadshow.” Our show is “what happens in an hones-to-goodness pawn shop.” But we’re not talking about Coke and Pepsi here. We are just pawn shops trying to survive.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever accepted as a pawn?
Well, we once got a prosthetic eyeball. We didn’t take that one, but we do take prosthetic limbs.
As in plural prosthetic limbs?
Sure. And one time we had a $100,000 Elizabeth Taylor broach. I know she owned it because they had the papers.
Your grandfather got you into this business, and your kids are continuing it. How are you going to ensure this business survives in its notoriously fickle industry?
There’s nothing I want more than for blood to run this business. But, sure, no one can be me. So, I’m not going to retire. I’m going to make sure of its continued success myself. They’ll have to carry me out when I die. And then I’ll come back to haunt them! Generation after generation, one of those generations is going to ruin the business. What I like to see is that both Ashley and Seth want is to make American Jewelry and Loan the best it can be. The only way the business will survive is if they keep their eye on the prize. Every day when we get to work is we kiss each other hello. And every night we kiss each other goodbye. And that’s why it’s going to survive.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs just starting out?
You have to wake up every morning knowing how bad you want it. Every dream is accessible if you work hard enough
Thursday, May 10th, 2012
From Click on Detroit Dot Com
Counterfeiter caught selling to famous Detroit pawn shop of ‘Hardcore Pawn’
Secret Service catches counterfeiter thanks to his trip to American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit
Author: Mara MacDonald, Local 4 Reporter
He might qualify as one of Detroit’s dumbest criminals.
Kenny “Boom” Smith was busted by the U.S. Secret Service for making and passing counterfeit money. Smith must have thought his funny money skills are pretty good because he attempted to sell both his counterfeit cash and his counterfeiting machine to a pawn shop. Not just any pawn shop, either.
American Jewelry and Loan is where the hit TV show “Hardcore Pawn” is shot. The store near 8 Mile and Evergreen roads has become a destination because of the show.
“We have tour buses and people from all over the world coming here. They love the show and we’re a great pawn shop,” said owner Les Gold.
Gold is the star of the show and has been in the pawn business a long time.
“We see everything. People bring in counterfeit money, counterfeit jewelry. Nothing surprises me nowadays,” he said.
So Gold didn’t bat an eyelash when Smith showed up and wanted to sell him his counterfeit money and machine. He wanted to be on the show. Smith told Gold he would bring his counterfeiting equipment to the store. A short time later the Secret Service showed up at American Jewelry and Loan. They had been tracing Smith’s activities since he had been passing his fake bills.
Gold filled them in on what Smith had told him and the agents found out Smith’s counterfeiting claims had been captured on camera for the show.
So now, Smith has been busted by the Secret Service and charged in federal court. This isn’t his first counterfeiting case either. He has done a stint in prison for the same thing and if convicted he is going back again.
As Gold says, “All because he wanted his five minutes of fame on TV.”
Smith actually signed a waiver to be on the TV show.
Saturday, April 7th, 2012
From Detroit News Dot Com
Reality TV, economic woes polish image of pawn shops
Brokers luring deal hunters, credit-starved
By BRIAN J. O’CONNOR / Detroit News Finance Editor
The pawn shop is ready for its close-up.
After centuries serving as the gritty urban lender of last resort for the unemployed, unlucky and untrustworthy, pawnbrokers are moving upscale, online and out to the suburbs, attracting a new clientele of bargain hunters and credit-starved suburbanites.
The makeover comes courtesy of the worst economic downturn in 80 years and two increasingly popular reality television shows.
First, the recession clamped down on credit and amped up financial distress for consumers of all classes. Then a pair of cable shows introduced the world of pawn to a new breed of consumer who needed to borrow or was eager for second-hand bargains.
“It’s cool to go to the pawn shop now,” says Les Gold, owner of American Jewelry and Loan, the Detroit shop on truTV’s “Hardcore Pawn” reality show. “It’s changed the perception of what pawn shops used to be.”
While the perception of hock shops has changed for people who have never relied on them, Gold concedes that the basic business of pawn shops is still the same — acting as the credit card for people who can’t get one from MasterCard or Visa. What’s changed is that since 2007, more people have joined that group, and many of those who do still have credit cards can’t use them.
As of 2009, 25.6 percent of all American households depended on alternative credit sources, such as payday lenders, rent-to-own stores and pawn shops, according to an FDIC survey. In Michigan, it was 23.4 percent of households. Many of those people have always been pawn shop customers when they need to borrow.
Now add the number of people who used to have credit but lost it during the recession. Between August 2008 and December 2009, credit card issuers cut the credit available to cardholders by nearly $1 trillion — a 32percent reduction. By the end of last year, available credit on plastic still was $724 billion less, down 25 percent from the credit bubble. The amount of home equity consumers could tap shrank by $226 billion between March 2008 and June 2011, a drop of 31 percent, with only a slight improvement by December from that low point.
All told, more than $900 billion of available credit vanished from the economy in three years, leaving a lot of consumers looking for new sources of borrowing. And if they hadn’t thought of pawn shops before, all they had to do was turn on their TVs.
“There’s a void to fill,” said Tony Aubrey, who owns four Motor City Pawn Brokers stores. His two established stores are in Roseville and Warren, but since the Great Recession he’s added pawn stores in suburban Livonia and even in trendy Ferndale.
The increase in demand is being met with an increase of pawn options, including brokers who specialize in high-end goods and online pawn services targeting jewelry and watches.
The number of brick-and-mortar pawn shops in the U.S. has increased by more than half in the past five years, said Emmett Murphy, spokesman for the National Pawnbrokers Association, including three Texas-based publicly traded pawn chains that control about 13 percent of the industry. From fewer than 6,400 pawn stores in 2007, the total is now about 10,000.
“We’re seeing a new type of customer,” Murphy said. “I credit the change in the image of the pawn industry to the success of the television shows.”
The new pawn customer is often looking for unusual items, such as the oddities and collectibles featured on the History Channel show “Pawn Stars,” or deals on second-hand items, including the jewelry that makes up 80 percent of business for many hock shops.
There’s another type of customer showing up at Greenfield and Eight Mile now that “Hardcore Pawn” spotlights American Jewelry and Loan: tourists.
“Now we have people from Australia, Alaska,” says Seth Gold, Les’ son and partner. “We even had a guy from Florida drive straight through just to meet us.”
Last summer, luxury tour buses unloaded 125 people at a time into the store. A corner dedicated to “Hardcore Pawn” features posters, pictures and T-shirts, including one that shows a grimacing Les, flanked by Seth and his sister, Ashley, over the words, “I got kicked out of American Jewelry and Loan.”
Les Gold signs pictures and autographs while conducting business.
“It’s all day long, sometimes 200 people at a time,” he says, including other pawn shop owners. “Pawnbrokers come in to thank us when they’re on vacation.”
Two other couples visiting are former Michiganians Debbie Coley, 62, a retired nurse, and her husband, William, 60, a retired trainman. They are visiting Mike Smiatacz, 63, a retired city worker from St. Clair Shores, and his wife, Jan.
“My sister is an avid fan and asked for a picture,” Debbie Coley says. “I think it’s great, it’s a boost. Detroit is always getting a bum rap.”As a souvenir, she buys a necklace for her sister. “It’s a good deal,” she says, showing it off.
After getting Les Gold to pose with them for a picture, like all the other tourists who visit, both couples turn to leave.
There’s one more thing they’ve got in common with all the other tourists — they’ve never been in a pawnshop before.
Monday, April 4th, 2011
From Home Town Life Dot Com
Experience, commitment to community earn Blaine top honor
Thomas Blaine is ready to buy, sell or trade. Owner of the Garden City Exchange, Blaine takes in items that the owner no longer wants and finds them a new owner.
Looking around his store on Ford Road, everything, he said, is for sale.
“The biggest thing we do is buy gold and buy and sell electronics, guitars, video game systems, tools and coins,” he said.
At age 31, Blaine learned the family business. His experience helped to earn him the 2011 Business Person of the Year award from the Garden City Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Development Authority.
The Livonia resident will be honored at an awards program and wine tasting, starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at Roma’s of Garden City.
Business owner Joan Hines said that Blaine has always been supportive of the chamber when she goes there.
Blaine and brother Adam run Garden City Exchange. He purchased it three years ago from Rudy Maldanado, who now owns a business in Wyandotte. Blaine’s uncle has a similar business called Olde Redford Exchange at Six Mile and Telegraph in Detroit.
“We were looking for new opportunities,” Blaine said.
Blaine believes in supporting the chamber and Downtown Development Authority events. He has bought gold from the community and has donated a portion of purchases back to the chamber at the Farmers Market.
“Gold prices are real high now, it’s been a big thing for people to sell their gold,” he said. “We try to donate whenever we can to the chamber. They come around every couple of months.”
He plans to be involved in the Farmers Market again this year.
The store has 5,000 square feet of space and draws customers from 10 miles away. He tries to do a lot of advertising. He has a Facebook page and advertise on the popular Pawn Stars cable TV show that’s on the Discovery Channel.
“It is a popular program and has brought us a lot of customers,” Blaine said. “It’s brought a good name to the business.”
He added that he is always willing to bargain.
“We are always negotiable on prices,” Blaine said. “We try to sell things at reasonable prices because the economy isn’t so good. On the other hand, people are always in need of cash, so we are always buying different things.”
He said that he is especially knowledgeable about gold and diamonds. He protects against buying stolen merchandise by asking for the person’s thumbprint, signature and driver’s license. They also have to be older than age 18.
“Every purchase that we make from a single DVD to a motorcycle or car is reported to the local police department, with serials and everything like that,” Blaine said. “We can act as a witness that the person was in possession of a stolen item and we can help prosecute. That’s not something that happens often.”
He admits that home invasions and larcenies are a problem in the community.
“We don’t want them (people) just to get away,” he said. “If somebody finds their stuff here, we advise them to prosecute. We don’t need these criminals to get back out there doing the same thing over and over again.”
Blaine grew up in Garden City and Livonia and is a graduate of Stevenson High School. He and his wife Amber are expecting their first child, a boy, in about 10 weeks.
For more information about the Garden City Exchange, visit gardencityexchange.com.
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
From AZ Central Dot Com
Reality of pawn shops a little different from TV shows
By Richard Ruelas – Oct. 5, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
On one show, the pawn-store owner is trading in antiquities and working big deals. On another show, the pawn-store owner deals with an array of sketchy characters kept in line only by his beefy security guards.
Neither portrayal seems familiar to pawn dealers in the Phoenix area.
“That’s all glitz,” said Stan Grossman, owner of Glendale Pawn and Jewelry. “The truth is, just like anyone else, we have a normal business.”
Pawn shops have become the latest fertile ground for reality shows.
Both shows, “Pawn Stars” and “Hardcore Pawn,” invoke puns that capitalize on “pawn” sounding like “porn.” But each presents wildly different views of pawn-shop life.
“Pawn Stars,” set in a Las Vegas shop and airing on the History Channel, makes the pawn life seem like a daily “Antiques Roadshow.” People come into a suspiciously empty pawn shop with valuables – the Who’s contract to play at Woodstock, John Hancock’s signature, a Rolex watch.
The staff hems and haws over pricing, sometimes bringing in experts to authenticate and evaluate items.
The other show, “Hardcore Pawn,” airing on truTV, presents a seedier vision. Set in Detroit, it features customers from a broad spectrum – a recently released prisoner comes in with power tools, and a woman demanding the return of a pawned item long since sold must be escorted out by security guards. One desperate woman tries to sell her pets (and since the store had earlier purchased a baby alligator, anything is fair game).
But most days at pawn shops are not as exciting.
“We kind of fall in the middle,” said Robert Palagi, president of North Phoenix Pawn.
Of the two, Palagi said that “Pawn Stars” is closer to the truth than “Hardcore Pawn.”
“Not everybody who comes in here is a tweaker with pockmarks and a hypodermic coming out of their arms,” Palagi said. Note that he said “not everybody.”
Palagi said there can be a rough element to the crowd, but he can’t remember ever having to threaten somebody with a gun.
“Customers get rowdy, but it’s so few and far between,” he said.
Antiques also are rare, said Eric Baker, store director at Mo Money Pawn Shop in Phoenix.
“We don’t see them that often,” he said. “If I would base my business on that, I’d be out of business in two weeks.”
Baker said he mainly gets TVs, DVD players, tools, electronics, watches and jewelry.
“You’ll never see that stuff on the show.”
The transactions can be a little more colorful than what may occur at Macy’s or Nordstrom, a detail the shows can accurately portray.
“At a pawn show, we don’t have to have customer service,” Baker said. “It’s our way or the highway.”
Baker said the reality shows are changing reality at his shop slightly. More people are coming in looking for antiques, based on what they see on “Pawn Stars.”
“I don’t mind the attention,” he said, “as frivolous as (it) is.”
Grossman, of Glendale Pawn and Jewelry, agreed, saying that on one level the show does a service for pawn stores by explaining how the process works.
But Grossman said a camera crew might nod off in his store. The overwhelming majority of his trade comes from people pawning or selling gold jewelry. And most interactions are pleasant.
“Generally, people are always nice,” he said. “If you take the time to explain why you’re doing things, most people understand.”
What keeps him interested is the unknown, always unsure what might wander through the door. Most times it’s jewelry, but he’ll get samurai swords or barbell sets.
“People don’t understand the depth of knowledge that pawn shop people acquire through the years,” he said. “It’s amazing what people own.”
Monday, August 16th, 2010
From NY Post Dot Com
By LINDA STASI
Now that “Pawn Stars” and the Harrison family have become the hottest things to hit the strip since strip joints, everybody wants to cash in.
Enter TruTV’s new show, “Hardcore Pawn,” a reality show about a suburban Detroit pawn shop that’s roughly the size of Costco — with almost as much stuff. Like a good pawn shop, TruTV wants to trade in on somebody else’s gold mine. Trouble is they’re dealing with stolen goods. The show is a ripoff of “Pawn Stars,” without the charm but with much of the ugly.
The place, American Jewelry and Loan — run by a family called, I swear, the Golds — is 50,000 square feet filled with 45,000 items. Like “Pawn Stars,” the Golds’ emporium is headed by a patriarch, the misnamed Les Gold. With his gold medallion and rings, he should be named More Gold.
Unlike Old Man Harrison, Les is not so quirky as he is unappealing. He’s got greasy, slicked back hair, a black leather sports jacket and skin that’s been tanned to the color of a new penny. Since pawning is a family affair, his grown kids, Seth and Ashley, work in the store with him.
Les describes his son as “the future owner of American Jewelry and Loan,” and his daughter as “the bitch of American Jewelry and Loan.” Enough said.
The show has its share of interesting items that come in. The most popular item in the premiere is a stripper pole complete with shag carpet platform — bring in the disinfectant and bed bug spray! — but the people who try it out aren’t really the kind you want to have over for a beer.
There’s also an obscenity-spewing lady with a bad braid job who goes berserkers because, she says, the Golds lost her earrings. Meantime, she has no paperwork. A big portion of the show is devoted to her yelling, “You no good mother-f- – - – - -,” and Les sagely replying, “f- – -, f- – -, f- – -” back. She threatens that he won’t make it home that night. Like I said, unpleasant.
There’s nothing fun about depressed Detroit or desperate people who have to sell their stuff to feed their kids. We don’t see any of these sad stories, but when you get a look at the parking lot, you know the place is not filled with happy people.
Besides that, a lot of it is clearly set up. For example, a woman comes into the shop with two horses and one donkey to pawn. Talk about a pile of horse manure! That stunt alone was enough to make me feel as used as that stripper pole.
Not a terrible show but, like a used toaster, it’s nothing new.
Copyright 2010 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.
Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
New truTV show ‘Hardcore Pawn’ features Detroit pawn shop American Jewelry and Loan
By Jessica Nunez | MLive.com
December 16, 2009, 8:42AM
American Jewelry and Loan in Detroit is the star of a new truTV show called ‘Hardcore Pawn.’ It airs on Monday at 11 p.m.Pawnshops: they’re there for you when you need money fast, or when you need a great deal on a big screen TV. Now one Detroit pawnshop is trying to hone in on a completely different business — entertainment.
Or reality television, to be more specific.
On Monday, the first two episodes of a show called “Hardcore Pawn” (which is either the worst or best TV show name of the year — it’s hard to decide which) will air on truTV.
The show will feature Detroit pawnshop American Jewelry and Loan and the crazy things it encounters on a daily basis, including customers who try to exchange things like alligators and prosthetic limbs in exchange for cash.
“We’re actually hoping [viewers] do like what they see,” owner Les Gold says in a Metro Times article. “I hope a lot of them tune in, to be honest with you. If you tune in on Monday, you’ll see some strange things come in.”
Metro Times, Dec. 16: (Les’ Son) Seth explains, “The reason why we agreed to do this wasn’t to become famous. It was to shed some light on what we do. Pawn shops have a negative stigma attached to them, and we opened up the door to show what we do so as to kind of take that —” “—to a legitimate, understandable level,” Les concludes.
The Golds’ pawn shop isn’t the first to be featured on a reality show.
A new History Channel show called ‘Pawn Stars’ (again, the porn pun … are we missing something?) also airs on Mondays, at 10 p.m.
This one follows the owners of Gold and Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, but Les Gold says the shows aren’t that similar.
“…The pawnbrokers of “Pawn Stores” deal in higher-end items, “Hardcore Pawn” would feature a more down-to-earth look at the industry,” Les says in a recent Crain’s Detroit Business article.
Only two episodes of “Hardcore Pawn” have been taped so far, but if the ratings are high enough, the show could be picked up on a regular basis.
Both episodes air on Monday, Dec. 21 at 11 and 11:30 p.m.
© 2009 MLive.com. All rights reserved.